|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
15:7-21 We see from the words purifying their hearts by faith, and the address of St. Peter, that justification by faith, and sanctification by the Holy Ghost, cannot be separated; and that both are the gift of God. We have great cause to bless God that we have heard the gospel. May we have that faith which the great Searcher of hearts approves, and attests by the seal of the Holy Spirit. Then our hearts and consciences will be purified from the guilt of sin, and we shall be freed from the burdens some try to lay upon the disciples of Christ. Paul and Barnabas showed by plain matters of fact, that God owned the preaching of the pure gospel to the Gentiles without the law of Moses; therefore to press that law upon them, was to undo what God had done. The opinion of James was, that the Gentile converts ought not to be troubled about Jewish rites, but that they should abstain from meats offered to idols, so that they might show their hatred of idolatry. Also, that they should be cautioned against fornication, which was not abhorred by the Gentiles as it should be, and even formed a part of some of their rites. They were counselled to abstain from things strangled, and from eating blood; this was forbidden by the law of Moses, and also here, from reverence to the blood of the sacrifices, which being then still offered, it would needlessly grieve the Jewish converts, and further prejudice the unconverted Jews. But as the reason has long ceased, we are left free in this, as in the like matters. Let converts be warned to avoid all appearances of the evils which they formerly practised, or are likely to be tempted to; and caution them to use Christian liberty with moderation and prudence.
Verse 21. - From generations of old for of old time, A.V.; sabbath for sabbath day, A.V. The meaning of this verse seems to be that, in requiring the above compliances, the council was not enjoining anything new or strange, because the Gentiles who attended the synagogues were familiar with these Mosaic doctrines. It has been often stated that these four prohibitions were in substance the same as the so-called seven precepts of Noah, which were binding upon proselytes of the gate. This is, however, scarcely borne out by the facts. The four prohibitions seem to have been a temporary arrangement adapted to the then condition of the Church, with a view to enabling Christian Jews and Gentiles to live in brotherly fellowship. The Jew was not to require more of his Gentile brother: the Gentile was not to concede less to his Jewish brother. St. Augustine ('Cont. Manich.,' 32, 13), quoted by Meyer, ridicules the idea of Christians in his time being bound by the law of things strangled (see Hooker and Bishop Sanderson, quoted by Wordsworth, in the same sense).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him,.... That is, for many years past, even from the times of Ezra, the law of Moses has been publicly expounded by them, whom the Jews call Derashim, preachers, or expounders, in every city where there was a synagogue; and every city belonging to the Jews, were obliged to build a synagogue, yea, they were obliged to do it where there were but ten Israelites (n): this is given by James as a reason why the Gentiles should be wrote unto concerning the above things; because that they hearing the law read and expounded every week, would be ready to conclude that they were obliged to submit unto it, as to circumcision, and other things; unless they were told that they were free from it; only in order to maintain peace with their brethren the Jews, it would be necessary for them to abstain from the above things: and it may also carry in it a reason, why the Jews need not be wrote unto, and why they had no reason to complain for thus writing to the Gentiles; since they had the law read and explained to them every week, and there would be no attempt to make any alteration in that form of service:
being read in the synagogues every sabbath day; See Gill on Acts 13:15.
(n) Maimon. Tephilla, c. 11. sect. 1.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
21. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him … every sabbath day—thus keeping alive in every Jew those feelings which such practices would shock, and which, therefore, the Gentile converts must carefully respect if the oneness of both classes in Christ was to be practically preserved. The wisdom of these suggestions commended itself to all present.
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